Author Archives: Allan Risk

About Allan Risk

I'm a guy "of a certain age" who should have been born in a different age; that of Bacchus, perhaps? I love food, wine, travel, dogs, and my husband, Daniel. He's Jewish, and I'm not, and so I'm loving the opportunities we have to celebrate certain occasions with food that's different from what I grew up with. Not that there's anything wrong with that food ... but after 50 years, a change is refreshing.

Silent Auction a Roaring Success!

We’ve just recently got the numbers back from our treasurer, and it’s official: the MURP Silent Auction was a huge success. Between ticket sales and bids for items, we raised well over $8000 in one evening!

In addition to being able to bid on wonderful prizes, attendees spent the evening enjoying wonderful food courtesy of The Cheese Boutique and Campagnolo,sampling French and Italian wines, local brews courtesy of the Bellwood Brewery, and live music.

Thanks to everyone who made the evening a success, including the many volunteers who helped out with pouring wine, preparing and laying out food, accepting payments, entertainment and security.


Art treasure discovered in church basement will be sold at silent auction next week

Organizing a silent auction and wine tasting for the Manning Ulster Refugee Project, we discovered treasure tucked behind an old desk in the warden’s office at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and solved a mystery.

For longer than anyone could remember, there had been a stack of framed art gathering dust in the office. No one knew who donated it many years ago, apparently for a sale or event that didn’t seem to have happened.

The background of committee member Alberta Nokes is in art history and when we pulled out the desk, she immediately saw that there were some exceptional things. First, a large, original stone lithograph, beautifully printed, an artist’s proof by Jack Nichols of an enigmatic dark angelic figure. According to Ms. Nokes, Nichols is among the most significant Canadian artists of the 20th century. He was an official war artist for Canada, a two time Guggenheim fellow and his lithos represented Canada in the 1958 Venice Biennale. Nichols’s work is unique in its emphasis on the human experience in war. The blackness of his medium and the haunting, timeless, atmospheric quality of works like “Dark Angel” grew out of his war experience.

Jack Nichols Dark Angel.jpg

Jack Nichols’ “Dark Angel”

We discovered that the Nichols and several other pieces including a 5 exquisitely framed hand-coloured etchings from the time of Jane Austen – 1805 to 1817, came from Budd Sugarman. Mr. Sugarman, for whom the park just to the east of the Rosedale Subway station is named was a civic activist and philanthropist who was instrumental preserving what was known as the village of Yorkville and creating the Village of Yorkville Park. He was an internationally known interior designer, operating “Hazelton House Prints”, an international company specializing in hand blocked printed fabric, from his shop on Hazelton Ave for more than 4 decades. There is a sculpted relief at the church dedicated in honour of Budd Sugarman and Gordon Johnson so he must have had a strong connection with the Church.

We think he’d be very pleased that the donation he made so long ago is helping now to re-settle refugees in Toronto. The Nichols has a value of $1,600, bidding starts at $160. The 19th century engravings are valued at $250 to $300 each and bidding sarts at 20.

So join us on May 3rd, at SMM for an evening of wine, food, entertainment and a silent auction of fabulous items!

Wine Tasting & Silent Auction Fundraiser!

Eventbrite - MURP Silent Auction

7 to 9 PM – TUESDAY, MAY 3 

Church of St. Mary Magdalene, 477 Manning Ave.

TICKETS $25.00 (includes admission, wine Waterfordand hors d’oeuvres), available here or at the door

             BIDS ON MANY ITEMS START AS LOW AS $2.00!

Bid for Silent Auction items while enjoying live jazz piano, superb wines fromAlsace,Tuscany and the Rhone Valley and gourmet charcuterie, finger foods and cheeses from Campagnolo and The Cheese Boutique. Auction items include:

AN ESCAPE TO ALSACE – 1 week’s accommodation for 6 in Andlau, voted the most beautiful village in FranceAndlau

Waterford crystal, and fine English bone china



1 week’s accommodation for 4 adults, 2 children at Casa Carole in the National Beach Reserve in a tropical, garden with a pool at Playa Grande


Tallis        TSO-Desktop COC               BlueJays

DINNERS AT FINE RESTAURANTS, AND OTHER ITEMS, INCLUDING A Second City Improv Class, Professional photo portraits and more!

CAMPAGNOLO_logo_black  HarbordRoomThe_Second_City-bnw-520x325

Tickets can be purchased in advance online, or  at St. Mary Magdalene after the 9:30 and 11:00 masses on April 17 and 24 in Hiscocks Hall. They will also be available at the door on May 3. Tickets and auction items may be purchased with major credit cards, personal cheques, or cash.

We hope you can join us!

We have been matched with a refugee!

Apropos of my last blog posting, you might have seen items in the news recently about how private sponsorship groups like ours are waiting much longer than we expected to be matched with refugee cases (Toronto Star, Globe and Mail).  While we continue to wait to see whether we’ll be matched with a Syrian family, we’re pleased to announce that we have been offered, and  have accepted a refugee case involving a 20-year old man from Iraq, who has been designated by the UNHCR as “at-risk”, and in urgent need of resettlement.

When AURA offered us this case last week, they alluded to the slow-down in the flow of Syrian refugees, suggesting that it might be many months before we were matched with a family.  We found out about this possibility on a Friday, and we had to let AURA know by Monday whether we’d proceed. After a flurry of emails back and forth between our team members, the feeling was unanimous that we should accept this case. The need was great for this individual; we have the funds to support him (and the government contributes a portion of the funding required);  and it could be many months before a family of the type that we’d requested is made available for sponsoring. We still intend to sponsor a larger family as soon as we can do so. But we feel that if we can help someone now, we should.

So, stay tuned — we’ll keep you updated as things develop!


Still waiting …

I just wanted to post a quick update about where we are at with our sponsorship.  We formally applied to AURA last month to be matched with a family.   Apparently, so far, no refugee cases for private sponsorship have been released by Citizenship and Immigration Canada since the last group was in late January/early February.  We’re not clear on what the hold-up is.  If I had to speculate, I would guess that after processing 25,000 cases by the end of February, CIC is taking a bit of a breather while it sorts out what it wants to do next. But that is purely speculation on my part.  AURA has indicated that there will be a “bulletin” sent out next week, which might clarify things.

In the meantime, we continue to be busy organizing fundraising events, and planning for our family’s eventual arrival.

We’re having a silent auction … Can you help?

As those of you who have seen the updates on will know, we have met our initial fundraising goal of $50,000 and have formally applied to have a family assigned to us.  Originally, we imagined resettling a family of four, however, most Syrian families arriving are between 5 and 7 members.  We revised our goal to $75,000 to better support a larger family and set them up for success in their new life in Toronto.  Our fundraising efforts include concerts, the first of which is on April 15!

We will also be holding a silent auction on May 3 at The Church of St. Mary Magdalene and are looking for items to auction. (See the list that follows).  Please get in touch as soon as you can at [email protected] if you have an item or items to contribute.


Examples of suitable auction items

Professional sports tickets

Do you know anyone, a friend or someone with season tickets who might donate a pair of tickets to Blue Jays, Raptors, Leafs, Royal Winter Fair Horse Show, Rogers’ Cup Tennis, Molson Indie, etc.  Maybe ask your lawyer or accountant if their firm has corporate tickets they might want to donate?

Professional performing arts tickets

For example:

  • Opera Atelier (Canadian Opera tickets have been donated)
  • National Ballet
  • Theatre – Canadian Stage, Shaw, Soulpepper, Luminato, Mirvish
  • Music – Hugh’s Room, Koerner Hall, Toronto Symphony, Roy Thomson Hall


  • Passes to ROM, AGO, Textile Museum, Gardiner, Power Plant, Casa Loma the City of Toronto historical museums (Fort York, Colborne Lodge, Spadina House, Mackenzie House, Gibson House )
  • Ideally these to be enhanced with lunch at the museum restaurant or somewhere nearby, a tour with a curator etc.

Hidden Toronto

We rarely discover the city where we live in the way we explore and experience a city we are visiting. We could put together packages that give people this unique experience of Toronto, for example:

  • A walking tour for four of Haunted Toronto (Muddy York Tours offers Toronto’s Haunted Streets and University of Toronto Ghosts) with dinner or lunch at the Keg in the old Massey Mansion where people have seen the ghost of a maid who hanged herself there
  • A tour of – for example –  Old City Hall or the Toronto Archives with historian and broadcaster Mike Filey
  • Wild Toronto – a tour for four of the Leslie Street Spit with a conservationist followed by lunch at e.g. the Cherry St. Restaurant
  • Toronto Harbour – a private boat tour of the harbour for 6 with cocktails
  • Paddling adventure – an adventure for 4 – learn to kayak, canoe or paddle board on the Humber River
  • Bird-watching on the Humber

Culinary adventures

Donations of e.g. dinners for 2 or 4 experiences such as:

  • 6 friends cooking a meal with a chef
  • A group learning to make a specific type of dish or specialty with an expert e.g. chocolate truffles, Indian snacks
  • An individual getting to help a craft brewer with a new beer

Vacation getaways

For example,  time at a cottage, hotel or country inn

Art and Antiques

  • Original prints, paintings, sculpture – ideally by established – i.e. searchable – artists
  • Silver, glass, china and ceramics, easily movable small furniture e.g. side tables, cabinets, lamps
  • First edition or collector books


Home and Garden

  • New or gently used high quality items, such as crystal, china, etc.
  • Garden items could such items as decorative urns, ceramic pots, wall fountains, metal or ceramic seating or décor such as obelisks, trellises, sculptures,  new/never used secateurs, etc.
  • A garden experience could be consultation with a landscaper or plant expert and a gift certificate for plants

If you have something to donate that you don’t see on this list, please get in touch!

Many thanks – keep checking out for updates.

Do you have any household goods you’d like to donate?

While we’re waiting to find out who our family will be, and when they will arrive, we’re starting to make plans for setting up a home for them. Since we don’t yet know any details about our family, such as how many kids there will be and their ages, we are holding off on committing ourselves to an apartment or house.  But we do know there are things that most families will need, like kitchen utensils, linens, or a telephone or shopping cart.

We’ve made a list of these items using a nifty web site called, which  works like a gift registry.  If you want to donate something that we need, all you need to do is click a button, enter a few details, and boom! You’re inscribed.

When we find out the details about who our family is, and when they will arrive in Toronto, we’ll contact you with details about how items will be collected.  We would ask that you continue to hang onto them for the time being. If this is a problem for your, please email us at [email protected], and we’ll see we can make alternative arrangements for storing items.

Note: for some items, like beds, we don’t know the exact numbers that we’ll need.  So, we might find ourselves in the fortunate situation of having more offers than we can make use of.  If that happens, we’ll try our best to find an alternate use for your donation.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. A special shout out to volunteer Michelle F., who is coordinating the information about donations of household goods. Thanks, Michelle!